Strong Island Co.

Doggers of Portsea

‘Doggers of Portsea’ is a photography project and census of dogs and their owners on Portsea Island by Josh Knill. Josh intends to document as many dogs and owners as possible to create a visual record of dog ownership on the island.

‘I am a dog lover and own two dogs myself (Lola a yorkie/spaniel cross and Margot a miniature dachshund) whilst out walking with them I would often wonder what draws people to own a certain breed? How did they choose the dog’s name? The photographic study will culminate in an exhibition of the images, alongside info graphics showing most popular breeds, names, location and owners age. Perhaps a correlation or pattern will emerge? A book will also be published containing the portraits and information.’

If you and your furry friend are interested in taking part in the project and having your portrait shot for free by Josh you can email him at or you may happen upon him whilst walking your canine companion.

For more information on Josh and to see more of his work you can visit

In Conversation with Ian Nicholson

Earlier this week you may have read about ‘Tender Loving Care’, a new play by Vickie Donoghue and Portsmouth theatre company Old Salt. A few weeks ago I caught up with the plays’ director Ian Nicholson in craft ale pub The Brewhouse next door to The New Theatre Royal where preperations were underway for the play. We discussed everything from Ian’s intriguing background and training to why it’s so important to develop creativity in Portsmouth and keep it here.

As Ian arrives to meet me next door to the theatre in the warm and relaxed Brewhouse it’s hard to not to be warmed by his bright smile and even brighter yellow coat. I’d first met Ian a few days earlier on a photo shoot for the productions’ poster at Old Portsmouth’s Hot Walls. I was intrigued to learn what draws successful creatives back to Portsmouth after leaving it for opportunities in London or further afield. ‘After graduating I studied a Masters at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’ says Ian as I enquire about his education and training, ‘after that I went off to France to train as a clown’.

This was something I didn’t expect to hear. It’s hard not to smile as Ian talks about this transition to clowning, something that inspired his first play The Last March which tells the tragic story of Captain Scott’s doomed expedition to the South Pole. ‘There is something funny and tragic about Scott’s expedition, they took a piano with them and other useless items; it was doomed.’

Photo by Josh Knill.

Ian has spent several years involved with youth theatre and working with young people at the Stafford Gatehouse before he set up Tinder Theatre which subsequently became Old Salt Theatre. So what drew Ian back to produce work in Portsmouth as he currently divides his time between here and London, where he is very successful? ‘Portsmouth feels like home but it feels like there are lots of stories waiting to be told.” Ian extolls, his passion unflinching, “I want to invite writers here, take them round the city and see how it inspires them.”

Drawing on his experience of working on youth productions, Ian recognises the essential role children play in telling the citys’ stories, “It’s also important to get families involved, especially children as workshops in schools are a great way for children to see how a play is made. People move away to London or elsewhere but we should make art in the city, for the city.’ We carry on talking enthusiastically about the importance of culture in Portsmouth and move onto Ian’s current play Tender Loving Care which opens in June. Using D-Day as the back drop to tell the story of women in wartime, the production utilises a predominantly female cast. Inspired by Ian’s grandmother who worked as a clerk in the Portsmouth Dockyard during WW2, the play has an exceptionally personal connection to him and Portsmouth.

Ian’s passion is real, he doesn’t simply preach about how we should create new creative work for Portsmouth, he is actively doing it. It’s not always easy and I admire his determination and obvious affection for his hometown. Tender Loving Care runs from the June 4th to 21st at The Square Tower. You can book tickets here.

In Photos: Record Store Day & The Castle Rd Easter Fete

Last Friday and Saturday saw the closure of Castle Rd and the return of its’ now familiar Fete, bringing over twenty of the cities’ finest independent traders together in celebration of  the much loved road. Coinciding with Pie & Vinyl’s Record Store Day celebrations, the two days featured live music performances from both national and local level musicians namely Young Knives, Emily Barker, The Boy I Used To Be, Matt Jarvis, Common Tongues, Fugitive Orchestra and Billy Vincent spread across two stages.

Sweetie Pie & Ooh la Lapin joint stall.

Young Knives on the Clocktower stage.

Rolling off the success of the Christmas Fair, shop fronts and restaurants spilled out onto the street providing everything from food and drinks to handmade items and vintage clothes – even the Bike Doctor was on hand for free cycle maintenance and advice. Recent additions to the road SHOP and 101 Reykjavik showed out in force with SHOP almost doubling its footprint out into the street and Reykjavik putting on a stage at the Common end of the road, alongside supplying a plentiful flow of their Icelandic white ale. If you’re a trader or maker looking to sell at the next fete, keep an eye on the Castle Rd website and register your interest soon as space is most definitely limited.

Thomas Dartnell of Young Knives keeping it weird.

Queue as of 8am on Record Store Day.

Pie & Vinyl saw more than 800 people through their door on Record Store Day with a handful of dedicated fans going as far as camping out from 5pm the previous evening to secure a spot at the front of the line. Free tea and coffee was kindly on hand for the first 100 attendees, although this number had been already far exceeded by the time we joined the queue at 7:30am. The hour and a half we spent in line passed quickly, albeit slightly chilly, helped along by the constant friendly conversations invariably started with, “So what are you hoping to get?”. Over 200 carefully curated records awaited the throngs of music lovers ranging from brand new releases to re-pressings of classic albums, many being limited Record Store Day editions. Pies weren’t saved from the celebrations either with pastry-based homages to Sub Pop and Pias served up with merch from their respective labels. Congratulations to the team at Pie & Vinyl for such a successful RSD event and thank you to everyone who turned out for supporting your local record store!

Hot beverage deliveries.

The Pie & Vinyl team post-RSD.

Emily Barker on Saturday afternoon.


Sweetie Pie Valentine’s Day Giveaway.

Those of you with a sweet tooth, may remember that over Christmas, Strong Island joined up with Sweetie Pie Bakery of Southsea, for an exclusive 10% discount on all their Sweet Pies, Cookies and Slices. As you may remember from our previous posts, Sweetie Pie specialise in baking sweet pies, cookies and slices, all of which are 100% gluten free. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Sweetie Pie have created their own “You’re My Cherry Pie” Valentine’s day special addition to the Sweetie Pie Menu.

“Our new You’re My Cherry Pie, is a soft almond crust, filled with a sweet cherry and pecan filling, topped with coconut cream and crispy pastry lid”

We’ve also heard on the cherry vine that these delicious gluten-free vegan creations will also be added to the Southsea Pie & Vinyl menu for those romantic couples who have booked a table for the stores Van Halens-tines day coming up. To book a romantic table, email: or call the store on 02392 753914.

The team at Sweetie Pie Bakery have also decided to give away 2 of their 4″ fluted You’re My Cherry Pies to one lucky couple or a sweet toothed singleton. To enter on Facebook simply “Like” the Sweetie Pie Bakery Facebook page and just share the image with tags #sweetiepiesouthsea AND #sweetiepievalentine. To enter via Instagram simply follow on instagram @sweetiepiesouthsea and share the competition image and tag #sweetiepievalentine.

To place any orders, simply email or for information on ordering in time for Valentine’s Day and all other Sweetie Pie bakes visit their Facebook Gallery at for price lists and a list of all their other products.

Valentines Giveaway Image to share

2 inch mini cherry

Close up Cut Open

Make is 1

It’s always good to see local businesses thriving and Make on Albert Road has been a real success story. Nicky the owner got in touch to tell us they are about to celebrate their first birthday.

Here at Make HQ we’d like to thank all our supporters/fans/friends by offering 10% off all our stock on the 7th Feb at 7pm, to help things along there will be a bit of wine and nibbles too, to celebrate Make’s first birthday. For all you vintage pattern lovers there will be over 600 patterns available on the night too, all £3 each!

They’re may even be cake!

If you haven’t visited Make before because you might think crafting is not your thing it will definitely change your perception. Make now stocks super hip, sustainable label Wool and the Gang which actually convinced my partner to learn to knit back in December.

Remember there are plenty of workshops you can attend to learn or improve skills all set in a welcoming environment that fosters creativity. Strong Island wishes you many happy years to come!

make876_n makebanner



The Strong Island Almanac Presents: Circolo Pizzeria

With Portsmouth awash with large chain pizza delivery places you tend to forget what ‘real pizza’ should taste and look like. At Circolo you won’t find a hotdog or tasteless plastic cheese stuffed in your crust but a light crisp handmade truly Italian dough. If that doesn’t inspire you then the relaxed, bright, modern vintage interior might persuade you to stay for awhile, grab a beer or coffee and order a slice of heaven!




Owner Gianni showed us round and talked about the interior design, pizza and his family’s history with the city.

 The interior was designed by myself. We were lucky that when we pulled off the old plasterboard and found underneath the original tiles from when it was a butchers in the 50′s we were on to a good start. People thought I was mad wanting to keep them but I’m glad I did! They were a great find as these sort of tiles were in keeping with the style I wanted to go for. With the furniture and fittings, I tend to collect a lot of different things and can’t resist buying things that I like or  think are designed well. So when I found the right location for the pizzeria I finally had somewhere to put all the pieces I’d collected. All the fixtures and fittings I have a bought over the years from vintage fairs, second hand shops, Ebay and the occasional auction. The marble work tops were saved from my grandads’ ice cream parlour he opened in the 30′s in  Guildhall Square. There is even a section dedicated to it in the Portsmouth Museum, so it was great to bring them back to life after years of being sat in the garden. There are still loads of peoples’ names engraved into the marble from all those years ago.






Tell us about your pizza?

The most important thing when making a pizza is the dough, which we make fresh everyday. Every pizza chef has a slightly different recipe for making dough. They are all very similar but everyone has a slight variation on the text book recipe. We all know what the Italians are like!

With pizza, as with all Italian food, less is more. We use fresh ingredients and as many Italian products as we can get hold of, which we get delivered everyday. By combining three or four simple but fresh ingredients you get a delightful end product. Unlike the big pizza chains where everything is frozen and loaded up with processed food.

The final thing that makes a great pizza is the oven. For an authentic Italian pizza you need a stone bake oven to get a beautiful crispy base. We imported ours from Italy. It cooks the pizzas beautifully.


 Verrechia’s in Guildhall Square. 14 October 1959.

What inspired you to open Circolo?

 I opened Circolo as have spent a lot of time in Italy as my mothers’ side of the family is Italian and I still have a lot of family who live there. My grandad came over from Italy before the war and opened Portsmouth’s first ice cream parlour and coffee shop Verrecchia’s, so I guess it is in the blood! In Italy, there are pizzerias everywhere.  You can go grab a quick pizza and a beer or even just a slice; I really enjoyed that when I lived there and missed not being able to do that in Portsmouth. I thought the city was missing something like that, so when I found a good location I took the plunge and got to work.

Do you have any plans for the future?

Plans for the future?! Well it is early days but I would like to open another few places out of town but I must be mad as there is a lot of hard work and stress involved.




Circolo has a Facebook page which is updated regularly and is full of glowing reviews.

You will find them at 78 Osbourne Road and can contact them on 02392 349 079.









The Strong Island Almanac Presents: Truffles

Castle Road has enjoyed something of a renaissance recently, with successful street fairs and the expansion of Pie & Vinyl the road has reaffirmed itself as one of Southsea’s most treasured locations.

The street is home to a number of eateries and cafe’s and it’s food culture seems to be coming into it’s own with something for everyone. From casual coffee stops, sandwiches, pies and now the reinvention of landmark bistro Truffles. The once dark and somewhat uninviting restaurant which has inhabited the same spot for decades is now under new ownership. The transformation is a thing of chic coastal beauty.

I caught up with the owner Dayne Hobbes who immediately made us feel relaxed with a coffee and a smile. As we sat down head chef Tim Trussler appeared with a basket of freshly baked bread and we began to discuss everything from interior design to Scandinavian baking.

Tell us about your journey? How did you come to own Truffles?

Truffles really is a family business, we’re all involved and between us have around 80 years experience in the restaurant business. I only moved to Southsea a year ago but first dreamed about having a restaurant on Castle Road ten years ago when we walked through here one day. I remember walking past thinking how much I’d like to own this place. It’s purely by word of mouth I came to own the restaurant. We’ve now been open 3 weeks!

Truffles has been completely renovated, talk us through the transformation?

The whole place has been completely opened up, we have re-used some of the original furniture and the kitchen required the most work. The kitchen is open onto the restaurant and Tim can easily communicate with front of house, keep an eye on what’s going on and also chat with customers. We sanded the dark wood floors to reveal light and bright boards, the walls are painted in Farrow and Ball which was a bit of a treat. The enormous mirror is a local purchase from Victoriana on Marmion Road. Overall the place has a relaxed coastal feel to reflect the locality.

How would you describe your menu, ingredients and wine selection?

We are British food with a French twist, our ingredients are sourced locally and our menu changes to reflect the seasons. Tim our chef trained under Gary Rhodes at Michelin starred Rhodes in the Square, London. Our seafood comes from Viviers and Johnson’s and as we are surrounded by the Hampshire countryside we get beautiful fresh game. We are very passionate about English wine and recommend Nyetimber a sparkling wine that easily rivals Champagne. We can match wines to your food and I do plan to have tastings (Dayne has a diploma from the Wine and Spirit education trust).

We enjoyed lunch which costs £9 for two courses or £12 for three courses. I have already booked in a birthday lunch in January and I can honestly say the food was wonderful and great value for money.

You can find more information, contact details and menus on the Truffles website.












The Strong Island Almanac Presents: Lightburn Camera

Kirill Sharikov is a free lance photographer and camera restorer who lives in Southsea, we recently met up to talk about his passion for restoration which also includes bikes. Kirill is the proud owner of Lightburn Camera which sells beautifully restored cameras and you can find his  own photographic work at Lightburn Photo. I strongly recommend you check out both of these, the work on the photo page is glorious!

How long have you been running Lightburn?

I only started back in May this year when I worked on my first camera, it took some research and Youtubing. I wasn’t happy with the first couple of results and ended up ripping off the leather. I bought a large bag of leather off cuts and ended up making all sorts of things with it. I bought an Olympus trip 35 for myself its a really popular camera at the moment and I re-skinned that, they are quite simple to re-skin.

Have you always had a passion for making, restoration and general tinkering?

As a child my main toy was lego and before that I had a Soviet version of Lego, lots of screws and components. Then I went to college to train to be a mechanic and then I switched to building. It teaches you to look at things, improvise and find solutions. I learnt how to weld and paint and I use that when I work on bikes.

What or who inspires you?

At the moment I really like what Fuji are doing style wise with their camera and the Olympus OM-D movement a digital series based on the old style ones. I would be able to re-skin these in the future too which would be great.

Plans for the future?

I’m planning to put tutorials and things on the Facebook page to encourage others to have a go. Obviously I will be renovating more bikes and building on my restoration skills.

You can find Lightburn Cameras Ebay store here and Lightburn on Etsy. Prices start from around an affordable £30.00

Also check out the tutorial on re-skinning a vintage camera.









Christmas Boutique Market at LJR’s

Tomorrow the Boutique Market will be at Little Johnny Russells for a cosy and truly festive time. There will be many talented local artisans and designers present (you can see a selection below). All the makers and designers are selected for their talent and craftsmanship, using high quality materials, time and attention to detail.

Vintage clothing and accessories will be available from Juliette’s Thread and Baggy Jumper. Perfect for cosy winter jumpers to party outfits!

The vinyl record fair will be on hand for your vinyl needs and topping up your record collection.

Strong Island Clothing Co will also be attending with the latest Winter range so a perfect opportunity to get hold of some threads.

We’ll also be remembering the spirit of giving at Christmas by raising money for Portsmouth Foodbank to make sure locals who need a bit extra don’t go with out. There will be some awesome raffle prizes up for grabs including a bike, who doesn’t want to win a bike for Christmas?

So come and support your community, shop local and let’s celebrate what a great art/design/craft scene we have!


 Raw & Auburn 


 Caleigh-ill Draws


 Ooh la Lapin


 Mia Mai

fox lorna

Collage by LAW


Earth, Wool and Fire.


Precious Things with Kendal James.

This Friday 29th November sees the opening of ‘Precious Things’ a collaboration between Kendal James and the Caravan Gallery. I caught up with Kendal to find out more about the exhibition.

How did your collaboration with the Caravan gallery come about?

It all came about quite naturally through friendship and drinking tea. Jan and Chris’s home is full of treasures that they’ve sourced themselves or been given by enthusiastic friends. Friends of theirs can’t help but gift them with interesting, confusing and out-there characters. I’m quite the ‘item seeker’ myself and fell in love with their hordes of Precious Things.

What was the most intriguing object you came across?

The one that first caught my eye (my favourite) is a startling, faded plastic pink cat, with 4 green wheels for feet and a blue string from its front – a classic child’s pull-toy, of course. Although, there’s none more intriguing than a hard, plastic, corn on the cob, painted in yellow and green and adorned with an old elastic band around the middle. Nobody would believe me if I said what’s inside, so, I’ll save that big reveal for the show…

Was it hard to choose what to include in the exhibition?

Not at all, there’s honestly been so much to choose from. My only limits were: what I could carry and, what I could reach without causing an avalanche (albeit, a small one) of other treasures.

Do you think the line between art and craft is a thin one and how do you feel about the art worlds sometimes perceived snobbery toward makers and crafters?

For most of my life, I’ve always been puzzled by the word ‘Art’, there were times when I’d confused myself into thinking that everything I saw was art. Which, in many ways I still believe is true.
I think it’s interesting that categories like Art and Craft form such divisions as they do, especially considering the amount of crossovers.
I would say that perhaps some artists may be upset when a craftsperson makes and sells so many items and designs in shops, making regular profits from reproducing designs. And maybe some craftspeople desire to spend more time on singular items but can’t afford to work in such away. Perhaps any snobbery comes from desires to be a little more like the other, in some way. Who knows?
If someone falls in love with something I’ve created, they can call it what they like, I just hope that it’s adored.
This does sometimes make it hard for me to find a professional identity for myself but that’s not always important.

Are you a collector?

In the past I’ve been a collector. There is a lot of satisfaction in collecting.
I love computer games, especially old pixelated RPG’s (role playing games) of which I still have a neat little collection. I’ve always loved bright, colourful toys and, as soon as I had access to eBay, I rediscovered my love of Barbie dolls.
And, I can never help but pick up odd bits of plastic, metal and cardboard that would one day become a great, and as yet unknown, item or artwork – if time would only allow.
Nowadays, due to moving around a lot, my collecting habits are much more controlled. I keep many sketch books where I doodle simple and extravagant things I see.

I’ve loved having The Caravan Gallery’s treasures in my home, it’s been a great chance to feel like a true collector all over again and the result reflects my personality perfectly. The title is Precious Things but I can’t help but want to describe it as ‘A whole load of toys and things’.

Any plans to exhibit the show in another location?

Everyone is very excited about the show, and there has been some discussion. Watch this space…

What’s next/any plans in the pipeline?

I’m striving towards fulltime art/design, where I can immerse myself in creativity.

Precious Things
Exploring an artist’s hoard of junk and treasure
Kendal James in collaboration with The Caravan Gallery

Exhibition runs: 27th November – 1st December
Preview: Friday 29th November, 6-8pm
Also open: Saturday 30th November & Sunday 1st December, 12-4pm

All other times by appointment:

GASP, Art Space Portsmouth, 27 Brougham Road, Southsea, Hants. PO5 4PA



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Vintage Southsea Postcards

I dug these off the internet a while back and forgot I had them. Some real old school winners here. Click the read more link at the bottom of this article to see the full set.



Southsea Strong Island Celebrates

I just can’t find the right images for this! Strong Island is 1 whole year old this Sunday the 27th. Time surely does fly hey. Meet us for a beer if you’re out and about. I think there’s something going on Albert Road this Sunday too…


and on another note…


Portsmouth on Film – Episode 3

The next episode of Jonathan & Matthew Ring’s vintage family footage ‘Portsmouth on Film’ went up recently. This episode is of a round Portsmouth car journey back in 1998.

Sunny Southsea

I went for bike ride today to take advantage of the nice, albeit cold, weather and take a few photos. Check them out over on my Flickr photostream.


Super Sunny Southsea

What amazing weather we’ve been having as of late. I even rode the full 8 miles home in the sun on Friday. We all had a great weekend spent on the common, riding our bikes, skateboarding and generally eating and drinking the days away.






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